NJPW Fantastica Mania (18/1/19) Review

Off you pop. Credit: NJPW

New Japan is in Korakuen Hall which means Fantastica Mania is about to step things up a notch. We not only have the finals of the Family Tag tournament but it’s time for our annual Cavernario match. What a treat.

Ryusuke Taguchi, Jushin Thunder Liger and Audaz defeated The Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori and Gedo) and Templario

Taguchi and Ishimori don’t have much in common. One is the super-ripped, sneering champion and the other is a slightly, em, softer gentleman in a Tutankhamen mask with 69 on the forehead.

Ishimori doesn’t seem to be worrying about the threat posed by old Taguchi either. He was having a smidgen of fun here, getting fans to chop the Wielder of the Funky Weapon before ripping off his mask. You get the impression he’s not too worried about his upcoming title defence.

Once that was done, we reverted to what has become the norm in these matches, as the final minutes were given to the luchadores. It was a period in which Audaz shone. He looked fantastic here, eventually sealing the win with an Armbar.

Outside of that, there wasn’t much to it. You can skip to the end, and you won’t miss anything we haven’t seen already.

Verdict: Two And A Half Stars

Titan and Angel de Oro defeated OKUMURA and Forastero

Titan and Angel de Oro spent a lot of this showing off all the cool shit they can do, and I am okay with that. Those two have it all, and if they want to, you could easily see them being the next luchadores to break out into America and beyond.

Unfortunately, it ended on a slightly distasteful note as Titan went after Mima Shimoda, OKUMURA’s wife, and a former wrestler who works as his valet. I have no issue with intergender wrestling, in fact, I actively enjoy it. However, there was something about the way he chased her down, grabbed her hair and threatened to hit her that made me uncomfortable. Those images felt too reminiscent of domestic abuse.

It was a sour ending to a match I had enjoyed.

Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars

Satoshi Kojima, Raijin, Fujin and Toa Henare defeated Los Ingobernables De Japon (Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI, Shingo Takagi and El Terrible)

This is the annual Black Cat Memorial match which meant it was preceded by a ceremony in which Kojima and friends presented his widow some flowers.

After that, they delivered a variance of the bout they’ve been doing all tour. I say a variance, but in reality, it was nearly exactly the same. Terrible and Kojima hit each other, Henare throws himself at Naito who, in turn, treats him with something a few rungs below contempt and Raijin has big beefy brawls with Shingo.

I don’t have a problem with any of those elements. In fact, I actively enjoy most of them. Even so, I don’t know I need to see them quite this frequently. NJPW is touring their story around multiple towns, and as those sitting watching every show at home, we’re at the stage where we can tune out.

Still, it wasn’t bad, and finished up with Koji getting his first win of the tour.

Verdict: Two And A Half Stars

Ultimo Guerrero and Gran Guerrero defeated Atlantis and Atlantis Jr.

Atlantis Jr is having a hell of a tour for a guy as early into his career as he is. They’ve done an excellent job of protecting him and putting him in scenarios where he can look good, but he still deserves credit. The kid has potential.

On the other side of the experience range, watching Ultimo Guerrero and Atlantis face-off is fascinating. Sure, they don’t move as quickly as they once did (I assume, I’m no expert on their careers), yet those two know how to work a watch. While it feels very old-school compared to the flying of Titan and de Oro, that doesn’t make it any less fun.

Atlantis would leave the ground in the final minutes (he actually does so quite regularly, but shush), leaping from the top rope to the floor with a Crossbody. Unfortunately, that left Jr alone. It didn’t take long for Gran pull him up from a Package Piledriver position into a Powerbomb for the win. Solid performances from all involved.

Verdict: Three Stars

Caristico and Namajague defeated Volador Jr. and Flyer

There were some thrilling elements to this one. Volador Jr (when he can be arsed) is a very good wrestler, and he had fun interactions with both opponents. It also looks like Namajague is having a load of fun working his old gimmick. I mean, em, fuck. His gimmick. Totally, just his normal gimmick. He’s been on holiday for the last however many years.

The problem is Flyer. I don’t want to say Flyer is a bad wrestler, I haven’t seen anywhere near enough of him to make that call. What I can say is that he’s having a bad tour. He can’t seem to get his timing down and there’s a general sloppiness to his work. Whether it’s nerves or the norm, I don’t know, but it’s hurting these matches.

Once again, Caristico got the win with La Mistica as he’s been getting the star treatment all month. He certainly acted like one after the bell as he took his time lapping up the cheers of the Japanese fans.

Verdict: Three Stars

Barbaro Cavenario defeated Soberano Jr.

Nothing sums up Fantastica Mania better than Red Shoes having a boogie with Barbaro Cavernario.

Actually, nothing sums up Fantastica Mania more than Cavernario pulling out a big singles performance. We always seem to get at least one, and this was it for 2019.

With one-on-ones being a rarity in NJPW, they always feel like a big deal. However, these two then went out there with the intention of hammering that home. They were working at a level that has been practically non-existent all tour, as they took more risks than ever in an attempt to get the win.

And when Cavenario is taking risks, you know it. The centrepiece of which is his ridiculous Splash from the top rope to the floor. There’s no way that move isn’t destroying his body, yet he pulls it out every year. Christ, I assume he’s doing it semi-regularly in CMLL too. That can’t be healthy.

As for Soberano, this was his best performance in a New Japan ring. He battled from underneath for most of the match, slowly letting his high-flying antics show rather than trying to dazzle you with them all in a two-minute flurry. There were also callbacks to earlier in the tour, his Moonsault to an opponent draped in the ropes, which had grabbed a three a few nights before, was merely a near fall here. One that had me assuming it was the finish.

This was a great match. I have no idea if there was a storyline reason for it, or CMLL/NJPW put it together for the fun of it, but it delivered.

Verdict: Four Stars

Dragon Lee and Mistico defeated Nueva Generation Dinamitas (Sanson and Cuatrero) to win the CMLL Family Tag Tournament 2019

Before Mistico and Lee could get in the ring, the Dinamitas attacked, diving through the ropes and starting the beatdown. Those two are a hella smooth team by the way. It’s kind of fitting that I can’t tell them apart, because they work brilliantly together. I do apologise if I get them muddled up, though.

That fluidity allowed them to control the early portion of the contest. It felt like Dragon Lee and Mistico never got into first gear, having been cut off mid-entrance and then beaten. They didn’t have a foothold in the match, and it took them taking flight for them to get it.

Of course, if you’re looking for two guys to take flight, you could do a lot worse than those two. They look like they’re made for flying through the air and it’s something I’ll never tire of watching.

As we went on, the tension ramped up. Mistico and one of the Dinamitas (I’m sorry, I really can’t tell them apart) even went as far as refusing to tag out because they wanted to continue laying into each other. It was such a simple touch, but a genius one in setting up that this was personal.

It all built to a fantastic finish where Mistico Moonsaulted to the floor leaving Dragon Lee free to close out proceedings. They had a tough job following the match that came before, and while they didn’t better it, they succeeded in living up to it.

Verdict: Four Stars

Overall Show

This was another Fantastica Mania show up until the final two matches when everyone suddenly decided to start trying. I don’t blame them for taking it easy on these tours, I’d do the same. However, when you see them go all out, it does make you wonder what could be if the whole thing was presented seriously.

Watch Fantastica Mania: https://njpwworld.com/

If you enjoyed this review, please consider contributing to my Ko-fi, even the smallest amount is appreciated.

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